Feeding Frenzy At Mico Stand Stands Out

An exception to the generally businesslike mood of the MIP market was supplied by Media Intl. Corp., a $50 million fund backed by a consortium of 47 leading Japanese media and financial giants, including pubcaster NHK.

French hostesses were overwhelmed by the scores of producers and broadcasters who descended on the MICO stand in a feeding frenzy, eager to soak up dollars earmarked for investment in international tv product.

British producer Primetime is one benefactor of MICO’s largesse, having earlier set up a new joint venture, Primetime/MICO, to invest in minis, drama series and high-budget docus. Primetime’s associated distrib, RPTA, will handle international syndication outside Japan.

“What MICO wants is to match our knowledge of Western programming with their financial muscle,” said Richard Leworthy of RPTA. Exec said the economics of each project will have to make sense without factoring a Japanese broadcast sale. With imported fare accounting for a modest 3% to 5% of Japanese airtime, opportunities for a Japan sale are limited.

“One of the trends at this market is the desire by Japanese companies to put together consortia linking the U.S., Europe and Asia. That’s underscored by the frenzy at the MICO stand,” said one exec.

The growing links between Japan and the West in television programming were underscored by a deal between leading British producer Portman Entertainment and Sogo Produce to develop and produce tv and film projects for the international market.

The 50-50 joint venture has greenlighted three projects so far, with locations and subject matter spanning Japan, Europe and Australia (where Portman has a production subsid).

They are: “Three Girls,” mystery drama set in Australia; “Konketsu,” a $3.2 million telepic in which a young Japanese-Australian retraces his roots; and “Land Of Her Father,” about a Japanese businessman setting up a factory in the U.K.

Ian Donald, joint topper of Portman, said the Japanese seemed keener than ever to communicate and explain their culture to the West as well as airing more product from Europe. Exec said the venture was “creatively led” and not just a financing agreement.

Sogo Produce is affiliated with Sogo Vision, which is financially backed by giant ad agency Dentsu, pubcaster NHK and consumer electronics powerhouse Mitsubishi Corp.

Not everyone, however, was blown away by the apparent willingness of the Japanese to embark on co-ventures with the West. “I look on this with some skepticism. It will be interesting to see how many of these projects actually get off the ground,” said one U.S. tv honcho who has worked with the Japanese.

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